A World War II recruiting poster for SPARs, the Women’s Reserve branch of the U.S. Coast Guard. U.S. Coast Guard image.

The Long Blue Line: SPARs – female trailblazers of the Coast Guard

By the end of World War II, nearly 12,000 SPARs had served in the Coast Guard. They pioneered the role of their gender in the service, the federal government and the nation as a whole. They have since helped shape the Coast Guard into a better institution for all men and women and continue to do so today.


Commodore Bertholf, first commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard and first flag officer in the service’s history. U.S. Coast Guard image.

The Long Blue Line: Bertholf – second founder of the Coast Guard

The story of Ellsworth Bertholf is lost and forgotten to the American public, but to members of the Coast Guard past and present, he remains a legacy through his heroic feats in Alaska, his role in establishing the Coast Guard as a military service, and the distinguished National Security Cutter that now bears his name.


Lt. Holly Harrison aboard Coalition warship USS Milius. Coast Guard Collection.

The Long Blue Line: Holly Harrison – Bronze Star Recipient of Operation Iraqi Freedom

Holly Harrison became commanding officer of the Coast Guard Aquidneck in 2002 where she took part in Operation Iraqi Freedom becoming the first Coast Guard woman to command a Coast Guard cutter in combat. Under her command, Aquidneck and Harrison’s dedicated crew conducted innumerable maritime interdiction, search and rescue, escort and combat-related operations earning Harrison the Bronze Star Medal, of which she was the first woman in service history to achieve.


The Long Blue Line: The First Lady Harriet Lane and WMEC-903

Just over 160 years ago, at a time when women remained relatively invisible in public life, Harriet Lane was the nation’s most politically powerful and celebrated woman. She was the first woman to receive the title of “First Lady” during her time in the White House, and she was the first female namesake of a cutter.


Beverly Kelley, first woman to command a U.S. military vessel, on the bridge of the 95-foot cutter Cape Newhagen. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

The Long Blue Line: Officer Candidate School and female trailblazers in the Coast Guard’s officer corps

Since the 1970s, women in the Coast Guard have come a long way with female service members occupying every active duty role formerly reserved for men. During this period, female graduates of the Coast Guard’s Officer Candidate School helped shape the Coast Guard and pioneered the role of their gender in the service, the federal government and the nation as a whole. They have made the U.S. Coast Guard into a better institution for all men and women and they will continue to play an important role in leading the service in the 21st century.


These men and women were the first known minority service members to graduate from the Coast Guard Academy. U.S. Coast Guard photos.

The Long Blue Line: The Coast Guard Academy – commissioning minority officers for 75 years!

The U.S. Coast Guard has had a history of ethnic diversity that rivals all other federal agencies. Therefore, it is only fitting that we should document the service’s diverse history by focusing on the Coast Guard Academy, which has commissioned minority officers for 75 years.


Capt. Bobby Wilks was the first minority aviator in the service who later became the first minority air station commander. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

The Long Blue Line: African-American Coast Guard achievements and diversity highlights of the last century

While the service celebrates highlights of African-American service in the Coast Guard, it should recognize the accomplishments of hundreds of thousands of African-Americans over the course of its 228-year history. These members of the long blue line have struggled for equal rights and persevered with a dedication that has benefited all who serve in the U.S. Coast Guard.


This image shows minority Lt. j.g. Joseph Jenkins and Lt. j.g. Clarence Samuels aboard Coast Guard operated USS Sea Cloud in the North Atlantic in World War II. Coast Guard photo.

The Long Blue Line: A history of African-Americans in Coast Guard combat

African-Americans have served in every conflict fought by the Coast Guard and its predecessor services, and currently comprise the longest serving minority in the service. Today, we commemorate the achievements and sacrifices of hundreds of thousands of African-Americans over the course of the service’s 228-year history.


An American periscope photograph of USS Big Horn on its first weather patrol. Only one of five big guns are visible from a submarine perspective; four of them hide behind false bulkheads. Photo courtesy of Coast Guard retired Cmdr. Douglas L. Jordan.

The Long Blue Line: USS Big Horn – the Coast Guard’s “Q-Ship”

USS Big Horn was one of the only Q-Ships to serve in the U.S. Coast Guard performing combat missions, weather patrols and tanker duty. The ship and its crews marked a truly unique chapter in Coast Guard history.


The Long Blue Line: USS Serpens—the Coast Guard’s greatest loss

Nearly 73 years ago on Jan. 29, 1945, a catastrophic explosion destroyed the Coast Guard-manned transport, USS Serpens. In terms of lives lost, the destruction of the Serpens ranks as the single largest disaster ever recorded in Coast Guard history.


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